Friday, April 1, 2016

Longer class day proves beneficial for girls, but not boys

Plans to extend the school day to increase achievement might not have the desired effect on all children, suggests the results of a study recently published in Education Economics.

Elena Claudia Meroni and Giovanni Abbiati analysed the results of an EU-funded programme providing additional lessons in maths and language for 10-11 year olds at over 300 Italian schools. Since girls generally do better in 'humanistic' disciplines and boys in mathematical ones, Meroni and Abbiati wanted to understand the role gender might play in the outcomes of extra lessons -- for better or worse.

The pair found that girls, who received extra mathematics tuition, improved both their maths and Italian-language skills -- with the latter effect possibly related to their increased confidence and motivation to achieve.

However, more time in class isn't always better. For boys, more time learning Italian meant a reduction in both their maths performance and enjoyment. It may be, the authors suggest, that extra time learning Italian acted 'as a substitute for engagement in maths.'

In terms of enjoyment, both boys and girls who spent extra time learning Italian were more positive about the subject -- but for boys at least, this increased enjoyment did not lead to actual improvement. Girls who spent more time in maths also came to enjoy it more.

This article provides some evidence as to how differing approaches to risk, motivation, commitment and discipline between girls and boys can lead to different outcomes when both are given the same extra tuition. As the authors conclude: "Gender is often neglected but it seems to be a crucial dimension to consider to better target educational interventions."

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